Teaching Reading Comprehension Without a Text

If you think about this, it’s actually quite funny.  Why, when we are teaching reading comprehension, do we use a text that students have to comprehend?  Stop and think about that for a second.  Yes, I understand at some point a text is important to use to allow students to practice the skills and strategies they are learning.  However, when first introducing or reviewing the strategies – let’s stop and take time to focus JUST on the skill or strategy, and without a text at all.

This allows the students to not worry about understanding what’s happening inside of the text, but instead and completely focus on the skill and how it works.  Teaching reading comprehension without a text can help support and teach students to go deeper with their comprehension.  Let’s find out how!

Stop Teaching Reading while using text

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Why Teach Reading Comprehension Without a Text?

Teaching reading skills and strategies are the fundamentals of students understanding and comprehending what they read, especially at deeper levels.  So when introducing those skills, why would I take away a text?

Reason #1:

First, it allows students to completely and fully understand the fundamentals of the actual skill/strategy itself.  And without the added pressure of understanding a text.  They should know the name of the strategy, how it works from start to finish, the parts of the strategy, the power of the strategy, what it looks and feels like when reading (not done by them).

Reason #2:

Second, teaching reading strategies and skills without a text takes away all of the added distractions.  Reading is all about layers.  Fluency, decoding words, vocabulary, understanding plot, characters, etc – each is its own layer and focus for a reader.  Each layer can add more and more pressure to a student.

If you have a student who has trouble remembering and understanding what they read but the goal is to summarize the text, how do you think they are going to accomplish the goal?  Instead of focusing on what summarizing is they are going to be focusing on understanding the story and miss the entire lesson.  Take away those distractions!

Reason #3:

Third, Teachers make this mistake all the time.  And I was guilty of it for many years too.  What’s the mistake?  We jump right into the deep end when we teach a skill.  Meaning, the skill that we teach – we jump right right into having students DO the skill on day one.  For example, I’m teaching writing effective summaries, then on day one I have my students write summaries – after I model of course.

This doesn’t work!  Students are having to juggle TOO many things to become effective at the skill right off the bat.  They need to understand WHAT summarizing is first and how it works before they apply it.  So don’t do it.  Don’t jump into the deep end!

Overall, taking the text away and focusing on the skill/strategy first makes learning the skill quicker and easier.  It’s easier to model and easier for students of all levels to understand, regardless of their ability level in comprehension.  Students who are maybe lower readers are able to volunteer more, speak up, and see examples of the strategy that they can relate to.  Higher readers are seeing strategies that, maybe they do understand, but in a different light.  This gives them more leverage to use the strategy on more complex texts.

How to Teach Reading Comprehension Without a Text

The hardest part of this is finding unique ways to teach reading comprehension but without a text or very little text.  I’ve got something that might help!  You can grab this free printable with over 10 unique ideas – each for a different reading skill!  Hopefully this helps get you started!  Just enter your email address below the picture and it will be sent straight to your inbox!

reading comprehension without a text

Benefits to Teaching Reading Comprehension Without a Text

I could go on and on about the added benefits of teaching reading comprehension without a text, but I’ll leave you with a few of the best ones.

Benefit #1:

First, doing this helps to create a solid foundation for the strategy that you will be able to build upon once it’s set.  If you’re constantly jumping right into application each time you teach the skill you’re going to do so over and over again and wonder why it’s not working.  Instead, take steps back and see how you can break the skill down more and into steps that students can understand – and begin without text or as little text as possible.

Benefit #2:

Second, teaching reading comprehension without a text allows students to be more analytical of the strategy itself.  They will KNOW what the strategy is, why we use it, how it begins and finishes, what it should sound like, look like, and feel like as a reader.  Students know the vocabulary needed to use the strategy.

The students almost become experts at the skill without even applying it.  This way, when they go to apply the skill – they aren’t juggling understanding the skill AND comprehending the text at the same time – they can focus on merging both together.

Basically, doing this helps keep reading more black and white than it was before.  Students can take what they learned about the skill/strategy and apply it to their own level of text.  Talk about an amazing differentiation technique!

So is this easy to do?  Not necessarily, but hopefully the freebie I’ve provided can help get you started.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely!  Your students will actually be able to see and understand what the reading strategies and skills you’re teaching are and then be able to more successfully apply them when needed.

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Reading comprehension without text


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I’m a wife, a mommy of 3, blogger, and a full time teacher author and presenter. I love to read, shop, and spend time with my family! My hands are always busy, but my heart is so full!

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